Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson officially joined the 2024 GOP Presidential race on Wednesday, April 26. In the past, a popular two-term governor of Arkansas could have certainly been a serious contender for the presidential nomination. Hutchinson is likely to be overshadowed by more well-known candidates such as former President Donald Trump and potentially Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Even outside of Trump and DeSantis, Hutchinson has polled behind former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott throughout most of the spring. While he finally hit 1% in the Morning Consult tracking poll the week of his announcement, it is hard to see a path to victory for Hutchinson.
Although Hutchinson supported Trump in the 2020 Presidential Election, he quickly broke with Trump after the election was over and recognized President Joe Biden as the legitimate winner and president-elect. He has built his campaign targetted on attacking Trump and has even said that Trump should drop out of the race given his recent indictment. Since better-known anti-Trump crusaders such as Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger are unlikely to run for the GOP nomination, Hutchison may be the most major “anti-Trump” candidate in the race.
Asa Hutchinson Scouting Report
Hutchinson’s combination of conservative social policy views with Trump-skepticism and a more globalist foreign policy framework means he will appeal to traditional Reagan Republicans. While other notable Republicans such as Trump and DeSantis have embraced the idea of “America First,” Hutchinson has said he believes the United States should “assert global leadership.” Unfortunately for Hutchinson, the Republican Party has moved away from this doctrine since Reagan was president.
Hutchinson’s globalist leanings clash with the more nationalist priorities of the Populist Right. These “New Guard” Republicans will not be fond of Hutchinson’s carer as a central figure in the Republican Party establishment for over 30 years, either.
Although his skepticism of Trump will appeal to social moderates, his policy views are too conservative for him to be widely backed by social moderates. His support for a federal abortion ban is unpopular with the American public, especially with moderate and independent voters.
The Evangelical Right
Although Hutchinson shares the evangelical right’s hardline stance on abortion, his opposition to Arkansas State Republicans’ religious liberty bill in 2015 shows he is unlikely to be the socially conservative firebrand these voters are looking for. And given that Trump is relatively popular with voters in this group, Hutchinson’s opposition to Trump will not help his appeal to the Evangelical Right. He also vetoed a restrictive transgender health bill passed by the Republican State Legislature in 2021, saying it was a “step way too far.”
Given that Hutchinson is perhaps the candidate most critical of Trump out of those that have declared their candidacy thus far, he has little to no potential of ever courting these voters. If he somehow wins the Republican nomination, he could have trouble turning this group of voters out in the general election.
In the next few months, Hutchinson must build his national name recognition with a successful launch to become a viable contender for the Republican nomination. Given his campaign is such a longshot, a solid goal for his campaign may be to weaken the hold that Trump has on the party’s electorate before dropping out and endorsing a more popular alternative before any votes are counted. If Hutchinson stays in the field too long and siphons off votes from other non-Trump candidates, he could end up handing the 2024 GOP nomination to Trump himself.
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